SC Drycleaner Restoration Trust Fund
The South Carolina Drycleaning Facility Restoration Trust Fund (the Fund) was created in 1995 by the General Assembly. It was a drycleaning industry-led effort to address environmental contamination resulting from drycleaning activities. As small businesses, drycleaners realized the costs to cleanup this contamination would force many out of business. Two state agencies are tasked with implementing this Act. DHEC is responsible for administering the Fund for investigation and cleanup. The South Carolina Department of Revenue (DOR) is responsible for drycleaner registration and collection of money into the Fund.
Revenue for the Fund is derived from annual drycleaner facility registration fees, a surcharge on drycleaning solvent and a 1% surcharge on retail sales of drycleaning services. These surcharges and fees are not collected from drycleaners who have legally opted out of the program in accordance with the provisions of the Act. The Act also requires participating drycleaning operators to certify to DHEC that they are handling their drycleaning solvents in an environmentally responsible manner to reduce the probability of future releases.
Current revenue is approximately $1.5 million per year. Slightly more than 400 sites have been identified that are, or may become, eligible for the fund. 287 of these 400 are known to have had releases to the environment and have had initial investigations completed. Based on expenditures to date and projections of future work, DHEC staff estimate that up to $175 million will be required to assess and clean up all the known eligible sites.
With the Fund's limited annual revenue, it cannot address all the environmental problems at every participating site at the same time. DHEC prioritizes cases to be funded based on the relative risk to human health and the environment each site represents. DHEC has performed some level of investigation at every eligible site to determine if emergencies exist and to collect sufficient information to prioritize the sites for further assessment and remediation. This effort has identified drycleaning-related groundwater contamination at the majority of the 287 sites that have been evaluated to date. Contaminated groundwater from drycleaning operations has impacted public and private water supplies in several of those cases. Alternative water supplies have been arranged at these sites, thus eliminating human exposures to drycleaning related contaminants.
A Drycleaning Advisory Council was created under the Act and is charged with advising DHEC on matters relating to regulations and standards which affect drycleaning and related industries. The Council consists of eight representatives of the drycleaning industry, one representative of the wholesale supply industry, one representative of the opted-out drycleaners, and one representative from DHEC. The Council is currently working with DHEC on two priority issues. The first issue deals with the limited capacity of the Fund to address all potentially contaminated sites in a reasonable amount of time although no legislation has been sponsored to address the funding need. The second issue involves revisions to the Act, intended to make the Act clearer and more streamlined, removing outdated portions of the Act, and allowing DHEC to conduct limited investigations at those facilities that have not provided evidence of contamination. This proposed legislation is currently at the Legislature.